The Best Places to Live in the U.S. if You're Concerned About Climate Change

See which metro areas are more resilient to changing climate conditions.

By Devon Thorsby, Editor, Real Estate |Dec. 18, 2019, at 4:09 p.m.

The Best Places to Live in the U.S. if You're Concerned About Climate Change

Slideshow

Which places are most resilient to climate change?

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There may be no place a person can go to avoid the effects of a changing global climate, but some places are better located and prepared for record-breaking temperatures, rising sea levels and worsening natural disasters than others. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency established the Climate Resilience Screening Index in 2017 to measure a place’s ability to withstand and recover from meteorological events and natural disasters. The EPA calculated CRSI scores for every county in the U.S. by rating each community for resilience based on five categories: risk, governance, society, built environment and natural environment. To determine which of the 125 metro areas on the U.S. News Best Places to Live ranking are the most resilient based on the EPA data (excluding San Juan, Puerto Rico), we averaged the scores of all counties that make up the given metro areas. Read on to discover which places to consider living if you’re worried about climate change.

20. Wichita, Kansas

20. Wichita, Kansas

Downtown Wichita skyline with a waterway and park in the foreground.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 79
Metro Population: 642,339
Median Home Price: $143,850
Median Annual Salary: $43,880
CRSI Score: 5.34

While Wichita ranks 20th for its climate change resilience out of the 125 metro areas on the Best Places to Live list, people living in this region, which the EPA categorizes as including Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska, should expect extreme heat and rising temperatures. Additionally, people in this part of the country should be prepared for the growing potential for drought in the future. However, the level of risk in three of the four counties in the Wichita metro area appears relatively low, so residents are less likely to experience these threats.

Learn more about Wichita.

19. Boise, Idaho

19. Boise, Idaho

Capitol Blvd, Boise, Idaho

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 17
Metro Population: 677,346
Median Home Price: $221,475
Median Annual Salary: $43,880
CRSI Score: 5.43

The EPA study places Boise within the Pacific Northwest region that covers Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Wildfires, tree disease, rising sea levels, erosion and melting permafrost threaten this region in general, but Idaho’s inland location helps offset some threats that are more specific to the coastlines of Oregon, Washington and Alaska. Additionally, Boise’s surrounding natural environment combined with its active local government, which is working to lessen human impact and prepare for climate change, makes Boise No. 19 on this list.

Learn more about Boise.

18. Colorado Springs, Colorado

18. Colorado Springs, Colorado

A view of Downtown Colorado Springs in front of Pikes Peak in the winter.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 3
Metro Population: 698,595
Median Home Price: $286,700
Median Annual Salary: $50,050
CRSI Score: 5.48

Climate change has already been affecting the Colorado Springs area with rising temperatures, wildfires, increased air quality issues and environmental damage to infrastructure, including roads, utilities and buildings. However, compared to much of the rest of the U.S., the region’s risk for acute climate events is low, according to the EPA. While El Paso County, where Colorado Springs is located, scores only 3.33 for CRSI, the neighboring county of Teller, the only other county in the metro area, scores much higher – 7.64 – bringing up the average for the area. Teller is a much more remote county, with low risk for natural disasters or significant damage caused by them. Plus, Teller’s local government is active in environmental and climate change issues.

Learn more about Colorado Springs.

17. Brownsville, Texas

17. Brownsville, Texas

Brownsville is located at the southernmost tip of Texas, on the northern bank of the Rio Grande, directly north and across the border from Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 116
Metro Population: 420,201
Median Home Value: $90,900*
Median Annual Salary: $35,240
CRSI Score: 5.68

Located at the southern tip of Texas, the Brownsville metro area has a high resiliency score based on its relatively low risk for devastation from natural disasters and its man-made and natural environments that are well-suited to withstand climate events. Compared to other metro areas in the region, such as Houston, New Orleans and Dallas, Brownsville is situated deeper into the Gulf of Mexico, making hurricane landfall less common and major damage less of an issue.

Learn more about Brownsville.

(*The median home price for Brownsville was not available, median home value is listed instead.)

16. Madison, Wisconsin

16. Madison, Wisconsin

Madison, Wisconsin, USA downtown skyline at dusk on Lake Monona.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 12
Metro Population: 640,072
Median Home Price: $247,967
Median Annual Salary: $52,190
CRSI Score: 5.76

Madison is located within the Great Lakes states, which include Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. The biggest threats these states face as the climate changes include extreme rainfall, flooding and extreme heat, with periodic drought also posing a potential problem. In the Madison metro area, however, diverse populations, a healthy natural environment and an active local government working on natural resource conversation offset the fairly high risk many of the counties face.

Learn more about Madison.

15. Reno, Nevada

15. Reno, Nevada

Reno, USA - May 31, 2016: Reno, known as The Biggest Little City in the World, is famous for it's casinos, and is the birthplace of the gaming corporation Harrah's Entertainment.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 33
Metro Population: 449,442
Median Home Price: $351,500
Median Annual Salary: $46,330
CRSI Score: 5.79

Reno’s location in the Southwest means it’s most likely to be threatened by extreme heat, drought, insect outbreaks and wildfires. However, Reno appears to be at relatively low risk for these events compared to much of Southern California, and it has active local conservation efforts aimed at maintaining the natural environment and increasing sustainability. As a metro area of less than 500,000 people located at Nevada’s border with Northern California, Reno also benefits from an expansive natural environment that doesn’t require upkeep from people, making it more resilient to extreme weather or other natural events caused by climate change.

Learn more about Reno.

14. Santa Rosa, California

14. Santa Rosa, California

The Wine Country is an area of Northern California in the United States known worldwide as a premium wine-growing region. Viticulture and wine-making have been practiced in the region since the mid-19th century. There are over 400 wineries in the area north of San Francisco, mostly located in the area's valleys, including Napa Valley in Napa County, and the Sonoma Valley, Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Bennett Valley, and Russian River Valley in Sonoma County.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 74
Metro Population: 500,943
Median Home Price: $629,917
Median Annual Salary: $53,890
CRSI Score: 6.38

While located partially on the Pacific coast, Sonoma County, home to Santa Rosa, is at risk of rising sea levels and shoreline erosion, as well as drought and wildfires that impact much of California. Based on the EPA’s scoring, man-made structures and infrastructure including utilities, communication methods and roads appear to be at low risk of devastation should an event occur. Additionally, demographic characteristics lend to Santa Rosa’s resiliency to climate change. That can mean the population offers economic diversity, is relatively healthy and that vulnerable groups, like the elderly, homeless or children under 5 years old, are relatively small in the area.

Learn more about Santa Rosa.

13. Richmond, Virginia

13. Richmond, Virginia

Downtown Richmond, Virginia in the early evening.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 53
Metro Population: 1,270,158
Median Home Price: $225,767
Median Annual Salary: $49,840
CRSI Score: 6.53

Richmond is at a reduced risk of damage caused by major climate events due to its location inland from the coast, especially compared to Norfolk, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, which both endure flooding issues from the coast and rivers. Still, Richmond faces heat waves and heavy rainfall. Active conservation efforts in the area and a greater amount of natural environment surrounding the city help to increase Richmond's resiliency in the face of climate change.

Learn more about Richmond.

12. Rochester, New York

12. Rochester, New York

Rochester, New York is one of the best fall family vacations

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 58
Metro Population: $1,080,653
Median Home Price: $135,042
Median Annual Salary: $49,570
CRSI Score: 6.63

In upstate New York, Rochester benefits from being farther from the coast, having active conservation efforts and being located among an extensive natural environment that should help it withstand major weather events, natural disasters and extreme conditions. Rising temperatures and drought are reasonable concerns for the Rochester area and the rest of the region that includes New York and New Jersey, but extreme low temperatures are also a risk residents need to be prepared for.

Learn more about Rochester.

11. Las Vegas

11. Las Vegas

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 71
Metro Population: 2,112,436
Median Home Price: $271,767
Median Annual Salary: $44,450
CRSI Score: 6.76

It’s no surprise that southern Nevada is at risk of rising temperatures, but Las Vegas is more resilient against climate change events than most of the rest of the U.S. While the densely populated parts of the Las Vegas metro area provide infrastructure and buildings that are able to withstand climate change, the area beyond offers a natural environment largely uninfluenced by people. Additionally, local and state government take an active role in conservation.

Learn more about Las Vegas.

10. Bakersfield, California

10. Bakersfield, California

Bakersfield, California

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 124
Metro Population: 878,744
Median Home Price: $226,908
Median Annual Salary: $47,680
CRSI Score: 7.03

While Bakersfield is at risk for rising temperatures and wildfires like much of California, it’s less likely to see such events causing major devastation, according to the EPA’s scoring. As far as creating a more sustainable environment, Bakersfield is setting an example for many other parts of the country, with wind energy serving as a major export of the area. Kern County, the sole county making up the Bakersfield metro area, was named the wind turbine capital of the country in 2018 by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Learn more about Bakersfield.

9. Albuquerque, New Mexico

9. Albuquerque, New Mexico

Cheap weekend getaways

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 106
Metro Population: 905,049
Median Home Price: $201,900
Median Annual Salary: $46,400
CRSI Score: 7.22

Albuquerque’s climate is best described as mountain desert: The air is dry, and desert flora is prominent throughout much of the metro area, which sits at an altitude of 5,312 feet. Extreme heat, drought, insect outbreaks and wildfires are a risk to the city, with such events potentially causing energy shortages in the future. But relatively little man-made infrastructure is located in the key locations where fires would be most likely to cause devastation, and Albuquerque boasts expansive natural areas that don’t rely on humans to maintain.

Learn more about Albuquerque.

8. Salinas, California

8. Salinas, California

Strawberry fields in the Salinas Valley of central California juxtapose with urban residential housing in the adjacent foothills.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 117
Metro Population: 433,168
Median Home Price: $581,342
Median Annual Salary: $48,290
CRSI Score: 7.46

While the Salinas metro area’s location near Monterey Bay would appear to put it at greater risk for climate change issues like rising sea levels and shoreline erosion, the EPA scores Monterey County with fairly low risk for future problems. Additionally, both the natural environment and human infrastructure in the area appear to be better equipped to withstand the effects of climate change than many other parts of the Pacific coast. However, that high resiliency comes at a price: Salinas is the seventh-most expensive place to live out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S., requiring 29.26% of the area median household income for housing costs.

Learn more about Salinas.

7. Fresno, California

7. Fresno, California

Sunny in Fresno, California

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 119
Metro Population: 971,616
Median Home Price: $260,733
Median Annual Salary: $45,510
CRSI Score: 7.47

Fresno is an inland California metro area, with little risk for climate change events to cause large-scale devastation, according to the EPA. The local infrastructure, from utilities and roads to house construction, also appears to be better equipped to handle climate change events like rising temperatures. Fresno’s access to large highways and multiple major airports beyond the confines of its own metro area also make it an attractive place as climate issues grow.

Learn more about Fresno.

6. Tucson, Arizona

6. Tucson, Arizona

Tucson Arizona skyline cityscape framed by saguaro cactus and mountains

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 76
Metro Population: 1,007,257
Median Home Price: $203,458
Median Annual Salary: $46,140
CRSI Score: 8.37

Tucson's desert landscape has never been the most habitable environment, with its high daytime temperatures and cold nights that can make exposure to the elements dangerous. But when it comes to risk of major climate events affecting the area, Tucson is considered fairly resilient. The local infrastructure is expected to be able to withstand climate events, and local conservation efforts are roughly average with the rest of the U.S.

Learn more about Tucson.

5. Portland, Maine

5. Portland, Maine

Aerial panorama of Portland, Maine at dusk

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 23
Metro Population: 525,776
Median Home Price: $223,367
Median Annual Salary: $48,970
CRSI Score: 8.58

The major threats to the Northeast are rising sea levels, heat waves and heavy rain, which can put local infrastructure, agriculture and the fishing industry at risk. The condition of the natural environment in and around the Portland metro area, combined with efforts by the local government to conserve natural resources, establish a plan and prepare residents, helps raise the Portland area’s CRSI score higher compared to many counties farther south along the Atlantic coast.

Learn more about Portland.

4. Spokane, Washington

4. Spokane, Washington

Last minute vacation in Spokane, Washington.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 65
Metro Population: 547,688
Median Home Price: $221,800
Median Annual Salary: $47,320
CRSI Score: 9.16

Spokane is another metro area that benefits from its relatively remote location. The EPA report points out that sea level rise and shoreline erosion are major risks to infrastructure in the Pacific Northwest, but Spokane’s location on the eastern side of Washington means it avoids this particular threat. But like much of the Pacific Northwest, Spokane is vulnerable to future snowpack melt from the mountain ranges in both Washington and Montana as temperatures rise globally.

Learn more about Spokane.

3. Santa Barbara, California

3. Santa Barbara, California

Santa Barbara, California, USA

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 73
Metro Population: 442,996
Median Home Price: $463,750
Median Annual Salary: $54,320
CRSI Score: 9.93

Located along the coast and south of the Los Padres National Forest, Santa Barbara may seem like an unexpected inclusion on this list, given the threat of wildfires in Southern California. However, the city is taking a proactive approach to climate change and the resulting weather events and natural hazards. Santa Barbara's climate action plan is aimed at identifying major sources of carbon emissions in the community, developing strategies for curbing those emissions and actively working to create a more sustainable environment.

Learn more about Santa Barbara.

2. Honolulu

2. Honolulu

Sun lovers on Waikiki beach in Honolulu.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 60
Metro Population: 990,060
Median Home Price: $581,658
Median Annual Salary: $54,030
CRSI Score: 15.69

The EPA report notes that natural resource conservation is a strong contributor for many counties with high scores, and that's certainly the case in Hawaii. Honolulu benefits from statewide efforts to reduce the chances of invasive species weakening the natural environment. Of course, the Honolulu metro area is at risk for seasonal tropical storms and hurricanes, but major damage or devastation is not typical in Hawaii due in part to colder water temperatures and the high-pressure system northeast of the islands that deters many big storms. Living in Honolulu comes at a cost, however: It's the eighth-most expensive place to live out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S.

Learn more about Honolulu.

1. Anchorage, Alaska

1. Anchorage, Alaska

Anchorage Alaska downtown skyline.

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 70
Metro Population: 399,360
Median Home Price: $259,900
Median Annual Salary: $58,980
CRSI Score: 21.36

The Anchorage metro area has the highest CRSI score out of all the metro areas on the Best Places to Live list, due in large part to the fact that much of the metro area is not built up and remains wilderness. The natural environment is far more resilient to a major weather event than a large city setting and can better adapt to changing sea levels or temperatures. With less people and man-made infrastructure, there are fewer things to be maintained in the area, allowing the wilderness to react naturally to changing weather patterns and climate.

Learn more about Anchorage.

The best places to live in the U.S. if you’re concerned about climate change include:

The best places to live in the U.S. if you’re concerned about climate change include:

USA, Florida, Stuart, Aerial view of suburbs

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  • Anchorage, Alaska.
  • Honolulu.
  • Santa Barbara, California.
  • Spokane, Washington.
  • Portland, Maine.
  • Tucson, Arizona.
  • Fresno, California.
  • Salinas, California.
  • Albuquerque, New Mexico.
  • Bakersfield, California.
  • Las Vegas.
  • Rochester, New York.
  • Richmond, Virginia.
  • Santa Rosa, California.
  • Reno, Nevada.
  • Madison, Wisconsin.
  • Brownsville, Texas.
  • Colorado Springs, Colorado.
  • Boise, Idaho.
  • Wichita, Kansas.

Read More

Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

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